Asrock Z77 Extreme6 Review
Many of you will probably be starting to become more familiar with Asrock. Not so long ago Asrock decided to delve into the Enthusiast arena offering some excellent choices such as the P67 Extreme4 and Z68 Extreme6. Today we will be looking at the latest offering from Asrock based on Intel’s Z77 chipset, the Z77 Extreme6.
Once again as with the Asrock Z68 Extreme4 we see the Z77 Extreme6 not holding back with full support for the entire line up of Intel Gen2 and Gen3 Socket 1155 CPUs, 8 phase power delivery, XMP support, fully featured UEFI, full support for Intel’s on-die IGP, Lucid Virtu and PCI-E 3.0 to name but a few of this boards features.
Z77 Extreme6 Gallery
Sadly today the weather has been absolutely terrible (we are talking monsoon-like rain, strong winds that will knock you on your butt if you are caught unaware, etc) so the creative license has been revoked with a vengeance. Instead I had to take these shots indoors where even a well lit room and a flash made it difficult to get the ideal shot.
Even Tasha is unimpressed with the weather.
The front of the box sporting assorted badges, the design is definitely improved over the old box design with the P67 and Z68 boards, but I’m impartial. I have no particular feelings toward the box design.
The back of the box, clean, precise, and thankfully avoids the usual marketing drivel you would find with other manufacturers. A very simple “Here’s what our board does, it’s awesome.” effectively.
Here we have the accessories included with the Extreme6, it must be said the USB 3.0 front panel inclusion is nice but I can’t help feeling this bundle is a little bare considering the Extreme6 is supposed to be one of the top end boards Asrock sell. A point highlighted by the fact the Extreme6 has a FDD connector on the board but no FDD cable included with the accessories. There’s also no molex to SATA splitters, something which the Z68 Extreme4 had with its accessories. I’m really a little disappointed with this accessories bundle. Asrock do earn a few points back for the software they have included, the MAGIX software suite is fully featured and generally very nice to use. We’ll look at it more later.
As we are on the subject of accessories we might as well dig a little deeper. Looking through the software setup booklet there are very vague descriptions for options found within the UEFI, but the descriptions are so vague they are really of no help to anyone unfamiliar with the intel platform or haven’t kept up to speed with technology over the last 3 years or so. I also noticed spelling mistakes in the booklet, example; on page 12 “IGPU Multi-Moniter”.
Lastly moving on to the main user manual it’s worth noting the manual is 256(!) pages long. You might be thinking this means the manual is extremely detailed – it’s not. The English part of the manual encompasses all of the first 50 pages with some English pages right at the back of the manual. Given the ever increasing need to preserve natural resources its disappointing Asrock are wasting so many trees by not localising the documentation to regions they are selling in. You could perhaps forgive the excessive use of paper used in the manual if it was made from recycled paper but it appears not to be.
The manual does however have a handy POST code list and a very simple well laid out format that even novices should be able to easily understand and follow.
Here we have the first view of the Z77 Extreme6. There is a lot to like about this design not least because it is a very clean design with good clearance around the CPU socket but because Asrock have finally ditched the PCH “heatsink” of the P67 and Z68 Extreme boards and replaced it with a proper finned low profile heatsink.
The IO panel also has all of the features you would expect from a board of this calibre, USB 2 & 3 ports, audio jacks, clear CMOS button, DVI, VGA, DisplayPort, eSATA, HDMI, LAN, 1394, and even a PS/2 port for use with a keyboard or mouse.
Finally, here we have a top-down view of the Extreme6. We can clearly see Asrock have put a lot of care and thought into the design of this board, fan headers are well placed, the debug LED continues to keep its place and the excellent MOSFET heatsink is also back. If I had any minor gripe at all it would be the PCI slots, I’d much prefer seeing those PCI slots consigned to the dustbin of history and replaced with PCI-E 1x/4x slots. This is a enthusiast level mainboard after all, obsolete technology has no place on it.
For those of you curious, yes the metal covers on the MOSFET heatsink will peel right off. If you want to remove the metal cover on the PCH heatsink you will have to remove the heatsink first as the cover is held in place with a few tiny screws. Those of you upgrading from a socket 775 system concerned about finding a new CPU cooler will be glad to know you don’t have to. There are holes around the CPU socket for 775 coolers.
As we all know what options a UEFI generally contains I’ll focus on the more interesting parts.
This is the system browser, simply hover your mouse over it to find out such details as what DIMM banks are filled, graphics card installed, etc.
It’s worth noting with the tested UEFI for this review (1.3) the UEFI appears to have a CPU LLC bug. No matter what setting you choose LLC is “stuck” at Level 1.
This is nice to see, SPD data from memory modules being directly displayed within the UEFI.
As can be seen from all those screenshots, Asrock aren’t shy about giving you lots of tweaking options, especially when it comes to memory.
Nothing has really changed here compared to the P67 and Z68 boards. I would like to see the “level system” for fan speeds replaced with a more customisable percentage system though.
MAGIX Software Suit
This is by far the most interesting thing on the Asrock disk, the MAGIX software suit and Mufin music player. The software is fully featured and should allow you to do anything you need really. You can test all of the software for 7 days after which you must register it, but registering is free so it won’t cost you anything more than a little time. I like this software, I really do. Mufin player especially is fantastic with ways to easily organise and burn your music, I think Mufin player easily rivals and surpasses similar software such as Winamp and WMP with muffin even offering free online storage.
Video Easy SE
Photo Manager 10
Magix Movie Maker Silver
2x4GB G-Skill PC12800
Asrock Z77 Extreme6 w\ UEFI 1.3
Xonar DX 7.1
640GB WD Caviar Black
2x SATA DVD-RW
850w Corsair HX
Win7 Ultimate x64 & latest drivers
Z77 Extreme6 Stock Performance
On top of the standard Aida tests I’ll also be throwing Cinebench 11.5 into the mix, let’s see how the board does.
There’s really nothing separating the boards so far, but the new Z77 does flex its muscles a bit in the Hash test, besting Z68 by a healthy 308MB\s.
The Z68 gets its butt whipped a bit here with the Z77 showing its superiority by beating the Z68 convincingly.
After that batch of tests I think it’s safe to say the results are a bit surprising. The Z77 improves where you expect it to healthily but is worse in other areas you wouldn’t be expecting to see much change, if any. Particularly surprising is the difference between the Z68 and Z77 in the memory and AES tests. More might be able to be eeked out if Asrock tweaked memory subsystem latencies in their UEFI, which might be a good idea considering the Extreme6 gets beaten by the Z68 in 2 out of 3 memory tests.
Z77 Extreme6 OC Performance
In the interest of keeping to real world scenarios all OCs have been conducted with the system in a case.
Well, those results are really quite impressive. A quick dirty OC session shows the Z77 gains considerable performance improvements from minimal effort.
MOSFET & PCH Heatsink Temperature Test
A lot of manufacturers like to fit their product with heatsinks that are geared for “bling” and not particularly efficient. This part of the review is intended to test the manufacturers claims – are the heatsinks suitable for what they are intended for like the manufacturer says, or are the components going to be getting so hot you can fry bacon and eggs on them?
All results have been obtained with a infrared temperature gun that is accurate to within +/- 2%.
I think these results speak for themselves, across the board (no pun intended) temperatures are improved. The improvement for the PCH is particularly pleasing, switching to a proper heatsink on the PCH has really helped with temps. You can rest assured the heatsinks do their job well on the Extreme6.
So, after looking at countless graphs and pictures what thoughts should be remembered above others? Well, to start with there’s no denying the new Z77 chipset performs quite well and you can expect this performance to likely get better for a little while yet with new drivers and UEFI updates. Regardless of if you are a casual or hardcore OCer the options in the UEFI will cater for both, and even if you are just average joe looking for a solid reliable board the Extreme6 has you covered as well.
While overall there is certainly nothing stopping anybody from rushing out and buying the Extreme6 there are a few areas of concern. Firstly, as good as the UEFI is it does need to mature a little still. Second, there is still only one ROM chip on the board. While I have not had any problems with any Asrock Extreme boards when updating the UEFI there is still that chance the UEFI update could go wrong. Having a backup ROM chip would save a world of downtime, frustration, and inconvenience.
The bottom line however (and I bet there’s a lot of you reading this for this very reason) is should you upgrade your aging P67 for a nice shiny new Z77? In terms of performance the difference isn’t significant, but noticeable. The main reasons to upgrade from a P67 to a Z77 though would be for PCI-E 3.0, increased OC potential (which is quite considerable, neither P67 or Z68 Extreme4 boards I have can run the test 2500k fully stable beyond 4.5GHz) and if you are considering buying a Ivy Bridge CPU. The Z77 Extreme6 will allow you to take full advantage of it as well as future-proofing you for PCI-E 3.0 graphics cards.
+ Excellent heatsinks
+ Very stable
+ Lots of OC options
+ Clean well thought out board layout
+ MAGIX software suit
+ Mufin player
- No backup ROM chip
- Worse memory performance in 2 out of 3 tests compared to Z68
- The unnecessary murder of countless trees because of non-localised documentation
- Accessories bundle could do with a FDD cable and a molex to SATA splitter or two.